Follow this now: Humans of New York

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A couple of months ago one of my colleagues excitedly told me about ‘Humans of New York’ – a simple concept that profiles New Yorkers with a photo and a short quote.

I’m so glad she told me about it. Humans of New York has been a daily delight. It has made me laugh, burst out in tears, question myself, question others and go through a whole range of emotions. The stories are quirky, poignant, diverse and interesting.

It’s amazing how such a simple idea can be so powerful. You can find Humans of New York on Facebook and on Twitter. It’s a must-follow.

-JB

I’m aware there are many other “Humans of…” pages around. Do you have any other favourites? Let me know!

The ethical media manifesto – “I commit to being an ethical media maker”

I commit (1)I commit to being an ethical media maker.

I will strive to live up to these values in every piece of content I make. I recognise that being fair and ethical in my content making is a lifelong journey and I may make mistakes, but I will always seek to learn and to do better.

I promise to:

1. Always consider the impact of my content on the audience.

I recognise that the content I make can have a wide range of impacts on the audience. I will always consider those impacts and ensure they are not without purpose. Where my content is likely to have negative impacts or cause distress it will be justified and I will ensure the audience have access to appropriate support.

2. Always consider the impact of what I produce on my subjects.

If I am producing content about people or communities of people I will consider the impacts (whether direct or indirect) my work may have on them. If a person or a community of people are the subject of my work I will seek to include them in the process. Where this is not possible I will weigh the public interest of my content against the potential impacts.

 3. Attribute the work and contributions of others.

When I am using, remixing or adapting the work of others I will ensure they are appropriately attributed. When my content is a work of collaboration I will provide clear and appropriate credit.

4. Be clear about potential conflicts of interest or relationships.

If there is a potential conflict of interest or a relationship which may impact my work I will be upfront about these conflicts or relationships. I will also investigate the potential conflicts and relationships of those I collaborate with. I recognise that the integrity of my work relies on this.

5. Produce content that has a positive impact on our society.

My aim is to produce content that will have a positive impact on our society. I will not produce content with a negative intent. I will choose educating over manipulating.  I will seek to add to collective knowledge and understanding rather than take away from it.

What would you add to your own ethical media manifesto? I consider this a working document and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Leave a comment here or send me your ideas to @JB_AU on Twitter.

-JB

 

3 free and essential apps for not for profits

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Software alone can cost not for profit organisations thousands of dollars a year in license fees and upgrades, but the reality for many small not for profits is that they struggle to purchase the hardware let alone the software to meet their needs. Thankfully the open source software community has reached a level of maturity that most of your organisation’s major needs can be met for free. Here are three essential apps for not for profits:

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1. OpenOffice
The OpenOffice suite has been a standard feature of my personal computers for years. This free office suite covers most of the basic functions you’d find in commercial package and is available across PC, Mac and Linux platforms. This is the software that got me through my university studies and can easily handle files from other office suites. If you’re a Microsoft Office devotee you might notice the odd quirk or missing feature, but OpenOffice can handle most of your basic word processing, spreadsheets and standard office suite functions with ease.

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2. Gimp
Adobe Photoshop has long been considered the standard for image editing and graphic design, but the costs associated with Adobe products are prohibitive for many not for profits. Gimp is a basic image editing program available for free on PC, Mac and Linux. It’s not as intuitive as Adobe’s programs, but it does the basics well. You might need to experiment for a while to get used to it but once you do it becomes an invaluable image editing and design tool.

Audacity-Logo

3. Audacity
One of the most powerful ways to evaluate projects and capture insights into your work is through capturing regular audio of staff, volunteer and participant reflections. I highly suggest breaking free of the standard paper or online surveys for evaluation and using audio interviews for qualitative feedback. You’ll get much more insightful feedback and can share audio recordings (with permission) with key partners or funding bodies. For that reason Audacity is a great free audio editing tool for any not for profit. Audacity provides another open source and cross platform (PC, Mac and Linux)  option for not for profits without needing to invest in expensive software packages.

As the open source community continues to develop we’re seeing many great options for those who can’t afford commercial options. Having a small (or often non existent) budget doesn’t necessarily mean missing out! I’m excited to see what the open source community comes up with next.

-JB

What great, free software have you come across? Let me know in the comments.

Image source

What are your photography tips?

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This week I invested in a new camera (the Olympus OM-D EM-1) to challenge and test my photography skills. As a media maker I think it’s important to stretch yourself and develop your skills in a wide range of ways and for me photography is one of my next steps. Strong, high resolution photography drives so much design nowadays that I’ve committed myself to learning more.

What have you done to build your photography skills? What are your photography tips? I’d love to hear what you’ve done to build your skills.

-JB

Simple and effective interviews

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Basic interviewing skill is one of the most important things an emerging media maker needs to learn. The best interviewers manage to balance natural conversation and allowing for spontaneity whilst providing enough structure to ensure a good story is told.

Research is often cited as key to any good interview – the better prepared and knowledgeable you are about a topic the better positioned you are to interrogate the topic and tell a good story. Unfortunately you don’t always have the resources for extensive research. I’ve done current affairs programs where breaking news happens and within minutes you have a guest on air on talking about a topic you haven’t thought about in months or years or music festivals where PR agents confirm an interview with minutes notice and you don’t even have internet access for sneaky research about an artist.

Regardless of whether you’ve had 5 minutes to prepare or 5 months to prepare for an interview I’ve always found basic story telling to be my saviour. Any basic story has a beginning, a middle and an end. That’s why I always aim to prepare questions and conduct interviews with the following structure:

PAST – Contextualise the interview.

Your first questions should help contextualise the interviewee or the topic for the audience. I do this by focusing on questions from the past. In a current affairs context this might be asking the guest for their recollection of an event or asking a musician to share what sparked their latest creation. Don’t assume the audience inherently holds this context or you risk alienating them from the very start.

PRESENT – Find the currency.

What makes this interview relevant to the audience right now? Once you and the interviewee have hooked the audience with a bit of backstory what’s the conflict or the point of interest most relevant to your audience right now? In current affairs this might be a question like “What are you doing to fix this issue right now?” or for a musician it might be sharing experiences on their current tour.

FUTURE – Come to a satisfying resolution.

All good stories must come to an end. What information can you draw out of your interviewee to come to a satisfying resolution? This is where you’ve contextualised the topic or interviewee, ascertained the relevance to the audience and you now need to help them to consider the future. In current affairs this could be asking what will happen to a community group who have lost funding or for a musician asking them about their next creative plans.

This structure has helped me to conduct thousands of interviews on a wide range of topics, but it should be made clear that it is just a framework. In many cases I’ve prepared a whole list of questions following this structure only to throw them aside and focus on more interesting and engaging parts of the conversation. Never forget that you are hosting a conversation – not just between you and your guest, but between you, your guest and your audience. All three must be considered equally.

My final suggestion is to treat every interview as though it’s a live one. Even if you’re conducting an interview with significant editing in mind treat the interview as if you are live on air or in front of an audience. Your raw interview should tell a powerful story without editing and be strong in its own right. Interviews are a performance – the better you perform in the initial performance  the easier your job will be in the edit suite. You’ll thank yourself later.

-JB

[Image source]

Self deprecation and media making

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One of the most common things I come across in emerging media makers is a fairly consistent stream of self deprecation. On a daily basis I watch, hear and read emerging media makers joke about how “unprofessional” they are or how “shit” they think their own content is. Some of my favourite television makers, radio broadcasters and writers manage to deftly balance considered wit with self deprecation and it can be really powerful/hilarious – but too often emerging media makers rely on self deprecation to manage their nervousness/anxieties and come off worse for it.

It’s good to be open and honest with your audience (in fact vital for establishing a connection with them), but when your content becomes more focused on reminding your audience how rough, raw, zany or chaotic you are you risk forgetting the one thing that people come to you for – content.

What often confuses emerging media makers is that much of the best media sounds “off the cuff”, “in the moment” and natural, but the truth is that a lot of hours and hard work goes into even the most casual sounding content by professional media makers.

Personality driven content has become extremely popular in recent times, but this is way too often confused by new media makers as a message to focus on personality fetishisation and forgetting about making good content. The assumption is too often that you can walk into a studio without preparation and your stellar personality and talent will do the rest. The problem with this mindset is that it shows a significant ignorance for what goes on behind the scenes of the big media personalities – hard work. Most of the big media names work long hours or have teams behind them tightly planning and curating good content. A raucous, zany or controversial personality might be an initial drawcard, but people stay because the content is good.

When you haven’t planned enough or haven’t put the effort into understanding your audience that’s when you’re most likely to rely on self deprecation for a cheap laugh, but unless you get it right it does more damage to your content and your reputation than anything else. That’s not to say self deprecation is necessarily a bad thing – it can make for hilarious content, but very few people have the talent or the skill to get it right.

-JB

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/8094737104/

Do you know how to talk about mental health?

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One of the most important things for any young or emerging media maker to learn is how to approach the topic of mental health. Anyone producing media has an ethical responsibility to consider the impact their content might have on the mental health of their audience.

Mindframe Media provide excellent resources for media makers and media talent to help them cover mental health responsibly.

The media is an important source of information for the community about mental health issues and plays an important role in influencing the way people think and act towards those who are affected by mental illness.

– See more at: http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention/talking-to-media-about-mental-illness#sthash.t2jERhdy.dpuf

If you make media on any platform (especially social media) I highly suggest reading their resources and learning how you can act responsibly and have a positive impact on mental health reporting.

[Mindframe for media professionals: Resources]

-JB

Why you should join or support your local community broadcaster

CBOnline

Community broadcasting has been a huge part of my life. When I was only about ten years old my grandpa took me into his local station as a special guest on his program “Jazz with Jim” and ever since I’ve been obsessed. I’ve volunteered for a number of radio stations across the country, become a board member at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and I currently work for SYN Media based in Melbourne.

If you’re a budding young media maker, a social change maker, love your local community or someone who just has a passion to share there couldn’t be a better way to do so than community broadcasting. Here are some reasons why you should join or support your local community broadcaster:

– In a world where much of the media we consume is driven by profit or ideology community broadcasting is one of the few places designed to be for the whole community – not driven by consumer needs and wants, but driven by community needs and wants.

– It’s driven by people speaking for themselves – not being spoken for. It’s increasingly important that we share the skills and platforms for people to speak for themselves.

– It’s diverse, it’s different and it’s batshit crazy (in the best way possible). If you want to meet some of the most interesting, passionate and diverse people in Australia community broadcasting is a great place to do so. I’ve met so many inspiring, challenging and interesting people by being involved in community broadcasting.

– It’s important for our democracy that everyone has a meaningful opportunity to be heard – regardless of their socio economic background, gender, sexuality or cultural identity. Community broadcasting is about giving people meaningful access to be heard.

– It’s challenging and it’s fun. Community and volunteer organisations can be extremely challenging, but rewarding places. You can learn about more than just media making, but so much about yourself. Community broadcasting is an amazing place to learn life skills and connect with your community.

Australia has hundreds of diverse community broadcasters covering a wide range of topics, interests and communities. You can find out more and find out your closest broadcaster at CBOnline.

-JB